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What, Me Worry?

Anxiety affects a person's sense of life satisfaction less than depression, prof says

If you suffer from anxiety, here is one less reason to toss and turn at night: while depression has a tremendous impact on a person’s sense of satisfaction with life, anxiety does not, according to psychology professor Ulrich Schimmack of the University of Toronto at Mississauga.

Past research has shown that extraversion and neuroticism are the personality traits most likely to influence a person’s life satisfaction. Schimmack built on this research by examining specific aspects of those traits: in the case of neuroticism, anger, anxiety and depression, and in the case of extraversion, a disposition to be dominant, active, sociable and cheerful.

”On the negative side, wouldn’t you have thought that depressed is bad, but depressed and anxious is worse?” asks Schimmack. “Actually, all that matters is how depressed you are. Anxiety doesn’t seem to influence your level of life satisfaction.”

People who are depressed are more likely than others to be anxious as well, but anxiety is a short-term response to a stress or threat and when it is resolved it doesn’t enter our assessment of happiness, according to Schimmack’s article, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The strong influence of depression shows that a lack of meaning is more detrimental to life satisfaction than stress and worries, he says. In addition, being the life of the party or the most successful person in the room doesn’t guarantee happiness, he says – far more important is a disposition to be cheerful.

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